Purveyor: Bennett Street Dairy, Bondi NSW, Australia
Menu Item: Hilda’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken on Lux Brioche
Price: $18.50 AUD
Squawk: We never thought it would happen, but there we were, stuffing our faces trying to find fault with this amazing burger, and we could not. Nothing. Sure, the place isn’t licensed, so no beer. Sure they got the “comes with chips” part wrong. Sure the unevenly weighted presentation with the two squishy pickles isn’t going to blow up on Instagram, but this burger is so good it overcomes all those things. The brioche is sweet – too sweet for most the burgers we’ve reviewed, but it is so perfectly matched with all the other innards, you can’t fault it. The smoked cheddar is fantastic all on it’s own, but factor in the way these guys get it melted to perfection with just the edges a bit burned and crunchy, and you can’t fault it. The Jalapeño Mayo has enough kick to warrant the name. We’d love more heat, but you can’t fault it. The rocket (aka rugula) and roast tomato do the job they’re there to do, it’s a good combo and you can’t fault it. And the house-made onion relish adds the perfect amount of moisture and tang to offset the aforementioned super sweet brioche, and you can’t fault it. Lastly the chicken is pure white meat, perfectly fried with just enough crunch, and without the excess oil that plagues so many other establishements, and you can’t fault it. Congrats to owner James Meek and Chef Cliff Baskin – Grandma Hilda would be proud.
“You can’t fault it.”
Buaawk: No beer. No chips. Pickles aren’t the best. A little bit expensive. And none of this matters.
Purveyor: The Coogee Pavillion, Coogee Beach, NSW Australia
Menu Item: Fried Chicken Sandwich
Price: $21 AUD
Squawk: This fairly average burger is majorly overshadowed by the Fried Sebago Potatoes with crisp thyme and chilli aioli ($12). These don’t come with the burger (fail), but they are off the hook. Dangerously delicious and highly recommended. But the burger! Tell us about the burger, you say. (We hacked your phone and can hear everything you say and think BTW). So the burger: It’s fine. It does the job and doesn’t do anything so overtly wrong that we can truly hate or praise it. They got the “chips included” part right, but they’re average chips that only serve as a negative counterpoint to the Fried Sebago Potatoes. The rather large venue was recently refurbished by the Merivale Group and if you go in between peak times, it’s actually quite a pleasant place to be. Especially in summer when all the windows and doors open to glorious sea breezes.
Buaawk: Staff here are, as expected with Merivale venues, attractive and friendly, but also relatively inattentive and seemingly dimwitted. On our last visit we watched a waitress drop glassware onto the floor three different times within an hour. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Truth is, this is just an unsurprising, neutral burger so rather than blather on about it, we’ll take this opportunity to vent one of our pet peeves around here: Spicy Mayo that isn’t spicy at all. One of our favourite bartenders at The House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, taught us ages ago that the best way to make a martini is to just look at the Dry Vermouth bottle very closely, but never pick it up (i.e. don’t use it). Whether or not you like your martinis super dry or not, this same philosophy seems to apply in Australian kitchens whenever a Chef decides to make “spicy mayo.” If they use regular mayo and just look at a chilli then it’s somehow, magically, deemed spicy. This is a long way round of saying that shit wasn’t spicy at all, and pretending it is makes Chef look dumb and us feel sad. Put some freakin’ heat on it! Have a great day.
Purveyor: The Rum Kitchen, SoHo Carnaby St., London UK
Menu Item: The Twist Burger
Squawk: This place is one of the many “Kingly Court” open air eateries and a great destination if you’re hungry and don’t know what you’re in the mood for, but of course, you do know don’t you? That’s why you’re here and why you should probably join up and start submitting some chicken burger reviews of your own, but we digress.
The Twist Burger is a Jamaican jerk chicken burger served with tomato, lettuce, hoisin mayo & Sriracha and comes on its own. All sides are extra. Even fries, which is a bad idea “mon.” The chicken is perfect combo of chewy and crspy without the sinewy strings of “nature’s dental floss” we’ve found on other Jerk burgers in the past. The spice is nice although not as long lasting as we would have liked. Presentation is solid. We like the decor, the music and the overall vibe. And we noted their.custom printed bowl/plate liners and their very nicely printed 43 page drinks menu (the food menu is one page, so we know where their priorities lie – which reminds us, we always love those mini bottles of Red Stripe Beer, we call them “Jamaican hand grenades.” Details like the tin can cutlery holders added an authentic touch.
Buaawk: Service while friendly, was, as is expected in this part of the world, terrible. Our burger came first. Then our beer. Then our cutlery/napkins. And then, finally, they asked us if we wanted water, to which we replied “yes,” and instead they brought us a candle. When we asked for extra hot sauce we got Sriracha. Not sure what part of Jamaica that’s from. It works, but that’s because Sriracha is a universally friendly, non discriminatory sauce, and not due to any observable kitchen intellgience.
Purveyor: Bird, Shoreditch, London UK
Menu Item: The Nashville Hot
Price: £8 (Fries £3)
Squawk: We came at a slow time only to discover friendly staff, music levels not abnoxious, and a menu that has a lot to offer. A lot. As you’d expect with a name like “Bird” they had more than a few burger options. But what really caught our eye was the waffle burger. Holy cluck it was tempting. But seeing as it was our first visit to this establishment, we decided to go with something a little bit more baseline. But trust us, we’re coming back from the waffle thingamabob. It has to be done.
Since we noshed on the Nashville Hot burger, let’s start with the heat options. Bird’s house hot sauce was on point – vinagery and tart with just a tinge of heat. We could’ve handled more, but it’s nice to see that generally speaking, they got this correct. The “Nashville” sauce that comes pre-loaded on this particular variation, however, has a lot of heat, which we loved and were surprised by. And as it turns out, we didn’t really need the Texas Pete wanna be, because the sauce on the burger gave us everything we wanted, and more. Speaking of which, for the first time ever we saw Japanese chili pepper on the table, which was an interesting, and nice surprise.
The pickles are fantastic, but they dropped the ball a little bit with the bun; to dry, too sweet, too big and fluffy, but if you consider that the “bird” in this place is the hero, then the perhaps the bun is more of a frame for the work of art inside. Perfectly cooked, nice crunch without the oil overload. And we love the option to add double meat even if we didn’t take advantage. (Our pants are already too tight).
We opted for the £3 chips and asked for a side off very nice Buttermilk Ranch (30p) for dipping, which was a good call if we can say so ourselves. We also enjoyed good presentation and branding throughout the establishment and received the best service we’ve had in a London eatery in ages.
Overall they’ve made solid choices here and paid attention to detail. And even though we haven’t tried it yet, they get bonus points for the waffle burger. We saw one get served and it’s outrageous. And necessary. Lord help us all.
Buaawk: It’s not their fault they’re a chain, and some some of the homeliness and vibe gets industrialised out of the place. It’s not overly clinical, but you do know you’re not in a Mom & Pop and you get the feeling the kitchen is playing by a industrial kitchen tested playbook, however good it may be. Also, what we said above about the bun.